By Dayo Johnson, Akure
DR Bode Olajumoke is representing Ondo North Senatorial district in the National Assembly. He is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees and chairman Senate Committee on Navy. His friends say he is blunt to a fault. He spoke on the problem PDP is facing in the South West and what is responsible for it among other burning national issues. Excerpts:
The Opposition is making an in-road back into the South-West now, what are the chances of the PDP in the next general election?
What we have been witnessing is the manifestation of a lack of internal democracy in the PDP. It is evident that it was absent. A situation where somebody who did not even take part in the primaries is imposed as the candidate of the party.
It was evident that something was amiss and we argued it. We saw it coming. As a member of Board of Trustees of the Party and we pointed out these things. What is happening, though unfortunate but it is a lesson and I feel greatly concerned not only in the South West and South South, but even at the National Assembly last week, some senators moved from the PDP to other parties.
I am concerned as a loyal member of the party. Especially as somebody who believes in dominant ruling of a political party in a developing nation. We need a dominant party arrangement for a developing economy like ours. The pressure is felt now in the PDP because it is the largest party.
The problem exists in all the political parties too. There is no internal democracy in any of the political parties too. They are offshoots of the PDP.
Your party, PDP is no longer in power in Ondo State, how do you hope to have electoral victories in 2011 in the face of the incumbency factor going for Labour Party?
If you read the mood of the nation, I think in the last one, two years, almost all the political parties have condemned lack of transparency in the practice of our democracy.
They have condemned acts of brigandage, rigging of elections e.t.c. Although, all the political parties condemn all the vices, but they still practice them. There is no reason why incumbency should be a determinant factor in elections. But all the political parties rig using the incumbency factor especially in elections conducted by the states independent electoral commissions.
But I want to believe that with the new lease of life, determination and comments by everybody, the electoral reform will ensure transparency of our elections. Things are bound to improve and I have no doubt in my mind that certainly we will improve in the way we carry out our elections.
I strongly believe that we are going to have one man one vote. We widely acknowledged INEC in terms of its leadership. So, there is no reason why we should not be hopeful that we are going to have better elections. When you have credible elections, then the onus is on the party in government either at state or national level to ensure that they deliver the dividends of democracy and that the manifesto of the party is properly implemented and carried out.
Failure to do that will ensure that the opposition will take over. By now we should be looking at governance based on issues e.g. how far has the Labour Party in Ondo State has been able to deliver on their promises. We have an enlightened society.
Failure to deliver on these electoral promises will imply disaffection from the electorate. So there would be nothing sacrosanct about any government because the masses would express their interest and power by voting out any government that fails to deliver on electoral promises.
So it will make the Labour Party work harder. The era of sloganeering and propaganda is gradually going away now in our politics. If the Labour Party is delivering on its electoral promises, I think the party will be confident that the electorate will return them but if they fail, they will know that no amount of rigging will keep them there.
I once said that the PDP will have a herculean task in dislodging Governor Fashola form Lagos State based on the performance of the governor there, ditto for Gombe State Governor. Everybody sings the praises of the Gombe State Governor in terms of delivery of electoral promises.
So any government that believes that it can only hide under sloganeering and propaganda is bound to face problems in the light of new experiences and aspirations of our people to have a very credible set up in our democratic practices.
People say there is no unity and cohesion in the leadership of PDP in Ondo State. Don’t you think these will work against the party’s chances in future elections in the state?
I think it will be foolishness on the part of the leadership of the party if they fail to realize that it is only in unity they can stand.
Lack of unity will further weaken their base and give their opponent an advantage. I believe we are looking critically at this. It is a major thing we are tackling to ensure that we have unity of purpose in what we do.
In you opinion, how can we as Nigerians have credible elections in 2011?
Well, I think we should have a rebirth as individuals. Nigerians should regenerate themselves because there is no amount of wishful thinking that will change the situation if we don’t have internal regeneration. We must have internal democracy in the political parties and I think that will be the first step.
Nigeria is 50 year old how would you assess the Nigerian nation in the last 50 years?
I think to a very large extent, it’s been a failure. We have failed. If you consider a fifty year old man who is only beginning to learn how to crawl, definitely it is a curse on such a man.
There are expectations of a fifty year old man, he ought to have finished his tertiary education and settled as a man, married and of course starting having grand children.
But our Nigeria at 50 is a sad story in terms of development. We haven’t got anything to show for being the so called giant of Africa in education, health sector, infrastructure and even in the practice of democracy. There is absence of internal democracy in all the political parties.
There is intolerance and pettiness in the way we run our democracy. However at 50 maybe there could be a spiritual rebirth of the country being the year of jubilee. As a Christian I am very hopeful that in our year of jubilee, we will have a rebirth.
And I think we are going to have a rebirth especially if you look at the critical stage we were not too long ago with the health of the ex_president Yar’Adua and the stalemate we were in and how God in a miraculous manner was able to pull us out of that stalemate.
Nigeria was a pariah nation famous for all negatives things like 419, kidnapping, act of terrorism like the Boko Haram saga.
But I think there is a ray hope for us as a nation with the positive things that are beginning to happen to us. For example, we have been delisted from the list of terrorist nations and drug courier nations of the world. I am inclined to believe in the biblical angle that we are having a rebirth because it is a year of jubilee.
Do you not think that the planned take over of the president’s inauguration by the National Assembly is unnecessary egocentric?
No, we have a system that we have copied from somewhere and the rudiments of the system must be completely imbibed. In a way, we are saying that the inauguration of the President is the responsibility of the people that elected him or her into office . The current practice has removed the people from that inauguration.
The representative of the people are not allowed to play a major role in the inauguration. However, in America where we borrowed our system from, it is the parliament that carries out the inauguration of the president.
It is the Speaker of the House that carries out the arrangement. I think it makes a bit of sense to me that being the representative of the people, they should inaugurate the president who is also the symbol of the people.
You once advocated for a benevolence dictatorship in our democratic arrangement, and your position attracted much criticisms. Are you still holding on to your view?
Yes, it was at a lecture that I delivered at the University of Ibadan , during its 60th anniversary celebrations, I was invited to deliver a lecture on the democracy in Nigeria and the way forward.
The fulcrum of my lecture was that because of the decay of the society in all aspect of our development, there is a need for a bit of benevolence dictatorship in our democracy because our system had so decayed to the extent that it had affected a lot of things.
We have been begging the issue even since independence. If you also recalled to the period that we have focused leadership in this country, we have a bit of respite.
We are a nation in a hurry, our infrastructure are in a state of decadence. Look at the education sector, we talk of 2, 000 universities in the World and Nigeria has no placement.
So, I said we cannot afford the full flagrance of democracy in terms of debate on issues. But there is a proviso, the benevolence dictatorship must be in the hand of a focused leadership.
Honest sincere leadership, selfless, committed leadership. Who you see in their totality, an embodiment of integrity, honesty. It is not hard to identify such leaders. We know them. Those sincere leaders should be given the chance to pick his own team. We have instances we can pick from especially from the Asian Tigers. That is how they achieved greatness.
Sincere and focused leaders get into office and invite like minds who shared the same philosophy with them to turn things around positively. They made sacrifices and they are not corrupt. I believe that we can also have it in this country but it must be for a period, it is not an endless benevolence dictatorship. After we might have stabilizes our infrastructure.
We have good roads, we have power, then gradually we align for democracy to grow. Although I was criticized by a section of the media when I made that submission, but I have received kudos from every strata of the society from the academia, the clergy and the civil society groups. Some people said I advocated military dictatorship and I did not mention such things.
You are still interested in returning to the senate, What are those things you will like to put in place again if you eventually get elected and what other motivating factors are inflecting your second term bid?
My observation in the past three years has been that, a first term senator has limits in terms of attracting projects to his constituency. If you are in the party that is in government in the centre, you are lucky because you are given juicy position like I being the Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy for example.
It is as a result of this I’ve been able to attract Naval Secondary School into my senatorial district. I am hoping that by going back for a second term, one would have become a ranking senator and that implies that one will be further acknowledged by the leadership of the senate and you can build on your immediate past experience to bring in more opportunities for your people.
I also know that in advanced democracies, the longer you stay, the better not only for the development of the legislature but also for your constituency in that there will be continuity. For example, some of the projects which I had attracted to our people, we will be able to follow up and we will be able to have more spread in terms of the establishment of these projects. That is the attraction of hoping to be a second term senator.
Moreover, my senatorial district is the only one that has not benefited from long term service in the state. In Ondo central, the senator there is going back for the fourth term, in Ondo South, the senator there is going back for the third term. This is my first term and I am hoping that I will be able to join my colleagues who are ranking constituency.
After all, the essence of representation is to serve not for self but to make life more abundant for your constituents in terms of welfare and infrastructure. I believe that if we are able attract more infrastructures for our people, life will be more abundant for them.
It is almost four years that you’ve been in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, people would like to know your contributions so far as far as your representation of Ondo North Senatorial District is concerned.
Well, it is almost four years that I’ve been in the senate. The gratifying thing to me is that, for the first time in the annals of representation of the northern senatorial district, the servant people sent to Abuja to represent the senatorial district had come back on a feedback of the representation. I summoned a stakeholders meeting a little after a year that I got to Abuja.
The stakeholders meeting comprising of traditional rulers, leaders of the various political parties, students, the academia, unions, markets women and all categories of our people. It was an interactive session where we were able to table what we saw in Abuja, the challenges, the hopes and aspirations.
When I went round campaigning, I collated the needs of our people in terms of infrastructures. And such stakeholders meetings allowed me the opportunity to take a review of those things that are stilloutstanding.
And I want to give glory to God that from the comments of those that participated, they were highly elated for the simple reason that, for the first time, they had the opportunity to sit with their senator. They said it was unprecedented and I repeated it.
I’ve been able to touch the lives of our people in numerous ways. Of course, this is a continuation of what I’ve been doing before I went to the senate. We run programmes to empower young unemployed graduates in the maintenance of computer systems and GSM handsets.
Not only running the programmes, but getting them tools with which they would run the programme. We run remedial programe for students in secondary schools all over the senatorial district. We also run programme to empower our women in their businesses like tie and dye, interior decoration, soap making e.t.c.
We have over 100 people under this programme. We have also identified categories of our constituents who needed support in their businesses like those in sawmills, drivers who are given loans to purchase their vehicles e.t.c. We did that in every
I have a very long standing scholarship for students in tertiary institutions. I supplement stipends of law students from my senatorial district because I am lawyer.
In all the Nigerian law schools, I give each student N40, 000. We started with N20, 000, but we’ve increased it to N40, 000. And of course I know students are very appreciative of this gesture.
Then in terms of rural development, we sank bore holes in communities in all the local governments. We have located health centres in couple of local governments and also contributed in terms of education infrastructure, like building schools in some of the communities with provision of tables and benches. These are some of the things we’ve done.
Will you say that in the last four years, you are fulfilled being the senator representing the district?
Of course it is impracticable to have absolute self actualization in terms of fulfillment. But, I am satisfied from the comments I receive from the people. For the first time in the history of our senatorial representation, somebody has been able to touch the lives of our people.
I think to a large extent one would have some level of satisfaction, but of course, we can still do more. I am glad to note that in the current budget, we’ve been able to impact on insertion of certain projects in all parts of the senatorial district starting from solar street light in about four or five communities, motorized, boreholes and so many others.
I’ve garnered experience and I’ve been able to interact with other legislators in attracting some of these projects to our communities. Let me also say that we’ve been able to attract the establishment of a naval secondary school in our senatorial district. It is in the current budget.
The immediate beneficiaries of this naval secondary school are our constituents. I have been able to influence rehabilitation of our bad roads like Ipele_Isua road which is undergoing rehabilitation, then the Ikare_Iyinre road which has totally collapsed, I’ve met with the immediate past and the current ministers of works.
I’ve led the delegation of some traditional rulers and leaders of Akoko communities to Hon. Minister to plead for immediate action on this road which has totally collapsed and I am glad that it is in the current budget.
There is no single local government in our senatorial district that is not benefiting in terms of project in the current budget and I believe by the next budget, all these will certainly improve on some of the infrastructure.
We also have loans for some indigenes of the senatorial district to help them in their business. This had made our constituents to be somehow gainfully employed not to talk of our scholarships. So I think I am satisfied in a way. I have been able to accomplish all these through my constituency support.
A lot of my own resources had also gone into these. However, it is impossible to meet all the yearnings and aspirations of the people, but what is important is to establish a foundation which others can build on.
Ahead of next year’s elections, what message do you have for the people in the south west?
We should be hopeful that there is a better tomorrow in terms of development of our people. Our people should come out and ensure they register in the voters registration exercise because that is the only way they can exercise their rights to vote. Everybody should be conscious of this.